Director of Learning Solutions Bray Leino Learning
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L&D in 2019: how far have we come?

13th Aug 2019
Director of Learning Solutions Bray Leino Learning
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2019 L&D reflections
ThomasVogel/iStock
2019 L&D reflections

We’re already over half way through 2019, so it’s a good point at which to stop and take stock of how far L&D has come this year so far and discuss whether our L&D predictions are coming true.

At the beginning of each year we are inundated with various predictions on the rising and falling trends within the industry. How are some of the most widely discussed themes of 2019 playing out as we head into the second half of the year? I’ll delve into some of the key trends from some of this year’s biggest reports and offer some reflection.

Managers are crucial

When it comes to endorsing and spreading the word about learning, managers really do play a critical role.

The evidence suggests that workers (especially millennials and generation Z) are heavily influenced by their line managers, as evidenced by the fact that 75% of learners would take a course assigned by their manager.

We’re struggling to do this effectively, however.

Why? In short, communication may be playing a major part, both from L&D and the managers themselves.

Towards Maturity’s latest report revealed that L&D aren’t making a strong enough case to get manager buy-in.

Only 19% of L&D professionals communicate the business benefit of learning to managers.

To frustrate matters even more, if the messages are being sent from managers, they’re simply not reaching enough employees.

It’s as if we’ve heard how important technology is in keeping our workforce up to speed in an age of digital transformation and jumped right in with whatever we can get our hands on.

Just 46% of employees discover learning through talking to managers – to put that into perspective, 61% discover learning via email communications.  

Despite this, almost three quarters of L&D professionals claim to use managers to promote learning, so this mismatch suggests that something is clearly being lost along the way here.

As managers are such a vital source of learning enthusiasm, the onus is on L&D professionals to address the communication breakdown.

Getting your managers on board can produce long-term rewards, with more motivated teams ready to embrace learning as part of their day-to-day roles. In short, it could make all the difference to your entire learning offering.

  • Takeaway: we need to create a more compelling case for learning to secure manager support.

Technology is overwhelming

I still can’t get my head around this stat: organisations are, on average, using 19 different types of technology in their learning. It’s no wonder so many of us feel lost.

Despite this, the appetite for technology continues to grow: over 70% of respondents to Fosway’s Digital Learning Realities survey are planning to increase their investment in digital learning content over the next 12 months.

It’s as if we’ve heard how important technology is in keeping our workforce up to speed in an age of digital transformation and jumped right in with whatever we can get our hands on.

Measuring learning outcomes, impact and success is L&D’s main priority area for improvement in 2019, but more than a quarter of teams don’t know how to get started.

As the evidence above suggests, however, if the outcome isn’t carefully mapped to business capabilities and learner needs, then it won’t be used effectively.

This isn’t to say that we should be afraid of introducing new technology into our learning.

Take artificial intelligence, for example. We can’t afford to ignore AI for too much longer, as it’s starting to be used more widely in learning.

Whether breaking down lengthy training guides into succinct modules or analysing user behaviour to generate new recommendations, it’s expected to become more mainstream in the coming years.  

We need to think carefully, however, about what is manageable for our organisation – in terms of IT infrastructure, number of employees, budget, and of course the return on investment – before diving in.

There’s nothing worse than using technology just for the sake of it, when a simpler solution could be just as effective.

  • Takeaway: we need to think carefully about the business need for technology before deciding what’s most appropriate.

Data and analytics are still a challenge  

I can’t talk about L&D trends in 2019 without mentioning data. I would even go as far as saying that it’s the hot topic in the industry at the moment; Donald Taylor has described 2019 as the ‘year of data’.

Of all the trends I’ve picked out here, data is the one that causes most concern.

Once again, the signs are there that we know how important it is, but we’re struggling to use it effectively.

Measuring learning outcomes, impact and success is L&D’s main priority area for improvement in 2019, but more than a quarter of teams don’t know how to get started.

Perhaps this explains why many simply don’t measure impact at all.

With the onset of digital learning, we can deliver immersive learning experiences at the point of need to really hook people in and, in turn, increase engagement.

Whether it’s knowing what exactly to measure or how to measure it, we’re falling a long way short of where we should be.

To truly demonstrate the worth of L&D to the wider business, and secure stakeholder buy-in, it’s critical that we can start to provide clear evidence of how learning is adding value at individual, team and organisational level.

We therefore need to take a step back before jumping in with measuring learning impact, understanding the bigger picture to ask ‘what can L&D teams do now to identify and address business needs, to ensure they are delivering long-term value?’.

Until we can do this confidently, we risk missing out on future investment opportunities.

  • Takeaway: we need to get to grips with data and see the bigger picture to become more valued business partners.

Enthusiasm towards learning is high

If there’s one thing that excites me most about this year’s research, it’s how much interest there seems to be towards learning among the workforce.

Among employees, there seems to be a growing hunger to take control of learning.

Mobile and social opportunities are especially valued by younger generations, who want to learn at their own pace, whenever and wherever they need it.

That aside, learner engagement is still the number one thing that learning professionals want to improve, which suggests that this enthusiasm isn’t yet translating into engagement.  

The overwhelming trend is one of right intentions not quite achieving the right outcomes. 

This wave of enthusiasm offers you a huge opportunity. With the onset of digital learning, we can deliver immersive learning experiences at the point of need to really hook people in and, in turn, increase engagement.

It’s therefore imperative that we take the time to get to know our learners inside out, so we can start developing solutions that are more closely aligned with their preferences – giving them what they want, when they need it.

  • Takeaway: we need to make sure that learning solutions are more closely tailored to the needs of our learners to get them engaged.

Verdict

Taking all of this evidence together, I’m feeling cautiously optimistic about the road ahead for L&D.

The overwhelming trend is one of right intentions not quite achieving the right outcomes. In other words, we’re getting closer to where we want to be, but need to iron out some of the kinks before we get there.

To overcome this, L&D professionals must be confident and resilient, willing to experiment, and ready to form new partnerships with the rest of the business.

This will help to spread enthusiasm for learning organisation-wide, and go a long way towards establishing L&D as a pivotal part of the business during these uncertain times.

If you’ve come across any of these barriers in your own role and are taking steps to overcome them, share how you’re going about it in the comments section below.

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